ASEAN awaits China's OK

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Fri Nov 26 20:29:55 MST 1999

26 November 1999
ASEAN awaits China's OK
By Jim Gomez
MANILA: Southeast Asian officials on Thursday sought China's crucial
approval of a newly forged draft ``code of conduct'' aimed at controlling
conflicts over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The draft was finalized late Wednesday by senior officials from the
10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will hold its annual
leaders' summit later this week. The ``code of conduct'' and efforts to
foster economic recovery are heading the agenda.
Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Lauro Baja said the draft code would be
presented Thursday afternoon to China, which is among several countries with
claims to the disputed Spratly Islands. China, along with Japan and South
Korea, will meet with ASEAN on Sunday.
Baja was asked if ASEAN would go ahead and adopt the proposal if China
rejects it or makes no decision by Sunday. ``We have not decided on that,''
he told reporters.
Differences over the geographic scope of the code have prevented its
adoption for months. Vietnam earlier insisted it apply to the entire South
China Sea, including the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam and China claim.
Malaysia, which recently negotiated a separate security arrangement with
China, has objected, saying some parts of the South China Sea overlap its
territorial waters.
Baja said China also opposes the inclusion of the Paracels, arguing that it
is a bilateral matter with Vietnam. The Spratlys, believed to be rich in oil
and gas, are claimed by four ASEAN members -Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines
and Vietnam -and China and Taiwan.
The Philippines, which drafted much of the proposed code, has tried to align
ASEAN members in a common stance against what it sees as Chinese
expansionism in the Spratlys.
An earlier draft of the code said rival claimants will refrain from ``taking
action that would establish presence'' in new areas.
China, Malaysia and Vietnam have recently built or enlarged structures on
the islands to reinforce their territorial claims.
Efforts to establish the code come as ASEAN is talking about increasing its
cooperation with China, South Korea and Japan in political, security, social
and economic and monetary issues. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has
predicted the rise of a wider East Asian grouping.
The Asian Development Bank met for breakfast Thursday with ASEAN finance
officials. ADB President Tadao Chino said they discussed ``how to proceed
with implementation with the poverty reduction strategy... and how to make
this recovery in the Asian region more sustainable.''
A report drawn up by ASEAN finance officials says the rebound has been
stronger than expected from the 2-year-old Asian financial crisis, with all
ASEAN economies showing growth.
``There are no new adverse developments (within ASEAN), but that
is not to say we are completely out of the woods,'' a senior Philippines
finance official told Dow Jones Newswires.
The official said the report concludes that while banking and corporate
sector problems in some countries haven't been resolved, progress has been
made and the difficulties are being ``positively confronted.''
He noted that Thailand, despite a still-fragile banking system, is
``bouncing back'' while Indonesia, one of the hardest-hit countries, is
staging ``quite a dramatic turnaround.''
Japan already has pledged $82 billion for the region and is likely to come
under pressure for even more assistance. Tokyo said Wednesday it will
announce a ``substantial'' support package during the summit that will
stress the dispatch of experts to train specialists, particularly in the
financial sector.
Security is tight for the simmit, with Philippine officials have deployed
7,000 police and troops for summit security. Defense Secretary Orlando
Mercado said no major threats are expected and police are likely to focus on
keeping protests from becoming unruly.
Several left-wing groups have announced plans to protest the eviction last
week of hundreds of squatters living near the meeting site. Several people
were injured.
On Thursday morning, a city bulldozer began clearing out another squalid
squatter's camp just a few hundred meters from the summit site. Families,
many with children in diapers, were loaded onto dump trucks and taken to
other parts of the city.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.(AP)

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